By VIVIAN EISON
I snapped hundreds of photos of my youngest son, but my favorite is a black and white of him at age two. He's wearing the cheesiest smile and holding on for dear life to his Batman and Robocop toys. His saucer-shaped eyes are playful and slightly mischievous. He’d just bounced back from his bout with chicken pox. Life was sweet, simple and uncomplicated. I’m a softie for nostalgia.
My son is 20 years old now—6’2” and tipping the scales at a rock solid 195 pounds. Troy is a senior at the University of Akron and was a wide receiver on the football team until two weeks ago. The call came while I was standing in line at the bank. “Mom, I just quit the team. I thanked my coach for the opportunity. It’s over.”
Stunned, I grabbed my deposit slip and ran into the parking lot. “What happened?” My heart was racing. “Are you okay?”
He calmly explained that while he loved the game, he couldn’t stand the coach favoritism and empty promises. He added, quietly: “I lost my ambition.”
I hurt for my son! He’d worked his butt off to be a legitimate athlete for the past 10 years; he was 5’9” and 150 lbs as a high school senior—not a physical powerhouse, but he had heart and guts and a dream to play in the NFL. I will NEVER forget his first touchdown. Of course, I acted up and screamed his name like any red-blooded mom would do. Troy’s catch made the front page of the local newspaper. I ran my mouth! You would have thought he won the Heisman.
Troy joined his college football team as a freshman walk on after getting only limited playing time in high school and getting passed over when the college scouts handed out football scholarships. He spent his summers on campus, religiously lifting weights and running routes with teammates, even though it wasn’t mandatory.
Still, this year he was frustrated that he wasn’t “getting in” during preseason practices with his team after sitting out his junior year to satisfy NCAA rules for players who transfer to new schools—a red flag of how the regular season with his newer, bigger school would go down.
I didn’t want to make matters worse by talking him to death and letting on that this situation had my stomach in knots. When your child is an adult, you teeter a tight rope between being a loving, concerned parent and a total nag. Angst and panic often hitch a ride on this neurotic super highway. You have to sharpen your listening skills and your intuition, and know when to back off or you’ll be spoon-fed incomplete information or, worse, be completely left out of the loop. But you never, ever stop worrying—even if you keep it to yourself.
You do, however, get to witness firsthand how well a job you’ve done as a parent. Though my heart ached for my son, I was proud to see that his decision was mature, not knee jerk or impulsive. It wasn’t the product of rage, big ego, whining, jealousy or arrogance. He was relentless, self-motivated, disciplined, coachable and driven, and pushed himself mentally and physically to meet the demands of college football while sitting pretty on the Dean’s list.
What my son did wasn’t about quitting. It was about knowing when to say goodbye—being content with his decision and walking away with integrity when he gave his all. Troy dared to dream. His dad and I encouraged his passion and didn’t kill his spirit. The Jim Kelly, Peyton Manning and Chris Carter camps were worth it. The lingering smell of Icy-Hot on his banged up legs and requests for back rubs and jugs of Gatorade warmed my heart. The life lessons learned on the football field about working hard and dealing with adversities will go a long way with him as he enters the working world and has his own family one day!!
Next year I’ll get to act up and scream his name again with pride when he WALKS ON the stage to get his Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. My kind of cheering—with a box of Kleenex and all.
About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Vivian Eison is a divorced mom of two grown sons. In addition to being a registered nurse, she is a contributing writer for BlackPower.com, and is writing a book about surviving divorce. She lives in Connecticut.